BITS OF HEBREW

Thomas Russell Wingate   
May, September 2011
August, September 2016
February 2017

 

 



 

                   1

 

In ancient Hebrew, brit means “covenant,” especially the covenant of circumcision.¹

 

                   2

 

In modern Hebrew, the U.S.A. is Artzot haBrit, “the Lands of the Covenant.”

 

Any American is expected to understand the reverential allusion to the Constitution and its federalism.

 

                   3

 

It matters not that the American Republic had no Jewish Founding Fathers.

 

American discourse continues to be drenched in attitudes like these: 

 

The future is endowed with such a life, that it lives to us even in anticipation; in the future is the Bible of the Free … We Americans are the peculiar people—the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world… God has predestined, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls… We are the pioneers of the world; the advance-guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours… Long enough have we been skeptics with regard to ourselves and doubted whether, indeed, the political Messiah had come. But he has come in us.²

 

4

 

Variant official translations of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (1948) betray haste and conceptual confusion.

 

At the start one mentions “the eternal Book of Books” while another mentions “the Bible.”  

 

One concludes “With trust in the ‘rock of Israel’…” while another concludes “Placing our trust in the Rock of Israel…”

 

This is the Declaration’s only reference to the Creator. It cites the last words of King David.

 

The language of international law is bureaucratic and bland. The language of prophets will outlast it.

 

                   5

 

Given our religious origins and subliminal convictions, Americans cannot view Israel as “just one more foreign country.” We know who we are and we know what we say we are.³

 

A subtle Star of David is above the eagle’s head on the Great Seal of the United States.

National tradition and honor, not caprice, not conspiracy, spurred the Lands of the Covenant to recognize the battle-born State of Israel de facto in eleven minutes and de jure in eight months. The United Nations accepted Israel as a member state four months after that.

… Well, legally, yes, but … not exactly socially … complications have been contrived or prolonged … for over sixty years so far …

                    6

From the 1880s onward Jewish scholars in Europe and Eretz Israel set themselves to making (“reviving”) Hebrew into a language for everyday use, rather than one reserved for liturgical and literary matters.  

In 1922 the British Mandate of Palestine recognized three official languages: English, Arabic, and Hebrew.

 

Modern Hebrew has about 5.3 million native speakers, nearly all of them in Israel, and an unknown number of Jews to whom it is a second language.

 

Yiddish has about 13 million native speakers.

 

(Source: Wikipedia.)

 

                        7

 

The word the Torah uses (Numbers 21:27) for “proverb-maker/bard/poet” is moshel, which also means “ruler.”

 

                   8

 

Urim V’Turim. Light and Truth. [rhyming motto of Yale University]

 

Avodah. Labor. Worship. [same word]

 

Kotel. Western Wall of Jerusalem Temple [still standing; “Wailing Wall”]

 

Zerizus (zerizut). Blessed willpower and aspiration that leads to exceptional accomplishment.

 

Vahyi or. Let There Be Light. [English: motto of University of California. Latin: Fiat Lux.]

 

Eretz Israel. Land of Israel (ancient, Biblical).

 

Medinat Israel. State of Israel (juridical, since 1948).

 

B’nai Israel. House of Israel; heirs across millennia of divine covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). 

 

Tikkun olam. Repairing (healing, restoring) the world. [Ethical imperative.]

 

9

 

Geometry is precise and eternal. Symbols are neither. They can be taken to mean almost anything.

 

The Seal of Solomon and the Star of David have nothing to do with any king in Jerusalem.

 

The former is an interlaced pentagram pointing up. In ordinary words, it is a five-pointed star drawn by one continuous stroke passing over-under-over itself at alternating intersections. (Think here of warp and weft in weaving. Interlacing suggests three-dimensionality.) When we directly connect the five points of the star, we produce a regular pentagon in mirror image to the pentagon in the core. Concentric circles can touch points of the star and all sides of the inner pentagon. This pattern—stars surrounded by, while surrounding, pentagons and circles—is inexhaustible.

 

Ratios in a pentagram fascinate mathematicians. No wonder the Pythagoreans kept their hand-shaped star hush-hush.

 

Inspect the present flags of Morocco and Ethiopia. The Seal of Solomon is at their centers.

 

Americans use five-pointed stars on flags, on uniforms, on coins, in advertising. Since the centers of these stars are filled in, they are regular concave decagons, not pentagrams.

 

In the center of the present flag of Burundi three six-pointed stars form a triangle pointing up. The stars are regular concave dodecagons. Four six-pointed stars on the municipal flag of Chicago differ noticeably from Burundi’s.

 

American stars point up, but the Congressional Medal of Honor points down. Pagans and Satanists may make what they wish of this.

 

The Star of David mates two hollow equilateral triangles—one pointing up, the other down—in a hexagram. It requires two continuous strokes, not one. Go ahead, try drawing it without lifting your hand off the paper.

 

In the center of the Star of David is a regular hexagon. Mathematicians are in love with the properties of six.

 

The six points of the star fall upon a circle concentric to another tangent to the hexagon. This pattern, too, is inexhaustible. 

In Jewish culture, the Star of David, often interlaced, is used everywhere. On the flag of Israel it is not interlaced—except on the more expensive specimens.

In Mormon culture, the Seal of Solomon and the Star of David, not interlaced but often with circles, are emblems of the overarching and indelible House of Israel.

 

No sacred scripture, ancient or modern, mentions or describes these famous constructed shapes.

 

                   10

 

The most fitting symbol of the religion of Moses is the golden lampstand (menorah) Bezalel crafted for use in the Tabernacle and the Temple. It is minutely described in Exodus 25:31–40. We are reminded of it in Zechariah 4:2–3.

 

The Emblem of the State of Israel shows a menorah (from the Arch of Titus in Rome) flanked by olive branches, symbolic of peace. The Israeli national enterprise owes much to Zechariah.

 

                   11

 

In Biblical  Archaeology Review (September-October 2016) we find “The Cyrus Cylinder—Political Propaganda.”

In 1971 the Shah of Iran, celebrating 2,500 years of unbroken (hah!) monarchy in Persia, called the Cyrus Cylinder the world’s first charter for human rights. Eight years later the monarchy was extinguished. The Shah died in 1980 in Egypt, which had made peace with Israel (1977–79). The Egyptian president was assassinated on that account in 1981.

In 1879 the Cyrus Cylinder was found in Babylon’s ruins and moved to the British Museum. It describes the Persian king’s conquest (539 B.C.E.) of his enemy’s capital. It thanks Marduk for his new dominions and promises to restore neglected and damaged temples.

The Cyrus Cylinder does not mention Jerusalem—Marduk and YHVH were never on speaking terms—but Ezra the Scribe makes Cyrus out to be a Zionist. Babylonia destroyed the First Jerusalem Temple in 586 B.C.E.; what could be more fitting than to have its replacement built with Persian blessings?

The Second Jerusalem Temple lasted (with Herod’s improvements) from 538 B.C. until A.D. 70.

A sizeable Jewish presence in Iraq goes back to 586 B.C.E. Few left until they had to. In 1951–52 Operation Ezra and Nehemiah airlifted at least 120,000 Jews to Israel by way of Iran and Cyprus. Despoliation was thorough. Reparations? You jest. Has Iraq been tranquil?

Zionists in the nineteenth century did not need the Cyrus Cylinder but they were glad to get it. Nobody read it closely. Those who could, didn’t want to. 

                   12

 

In November 1963, a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis might have put an end to us all, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared “any doctrine of racial discrimination or superiority” to be “scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust, and dangerous.” (UNGAR 1904.)

In November 1975, following Arab military defeat, UNGAR 3379 declared at great length that Zionism is a form of racism as meant by UNGAR 1904.
The vote: 72 yes, 35 no, 2 abstentions.

In December 1991, following Arab military defeat and after the Soviet order was swept away, UNGAR 46/80, in very few words, repealed UNGAR 3379. The vote: 111 yes, 25 no, 13 abstentions.  

The General Assembly of the United Nations took sixty years to declare an International Holocaust Remembrance Day (each 27 January, from 2005 onward) to commemorate Jews, Romani (Gypsies), mentally and physically disabled, and homosexuals done to death by the Third Reich and its enablers. UNGAR 60/7 “rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an event.”

Everywhere, Jews observe Yom HaShoah by their lunar calendar in April/May.   

UNGAR 60/7 was “approved by consensus” of 192 member states. This parliamentary maneuver is unusual but not unheard of. It means that every voter is on the winning side but that no voter risks being stained if the wind changes.

UNGAR 60/7 is not being well publicized among populations whose rulers divert their frustrations.

                   13

 

Republics, liberal or not, have been kinder to Jews than monarchies—and mobs.

 

France was the first country to expel Jews for the sake of Catholic uniformity. This was in 1182. England expelled Jews in 1290; five centuries passed before Great Britain legitimized their presence. France expelled Jews again in 1306. France did it a third time in 1394.

 

In 1095 a French pope in France launched the First Crusade. In 1291 France lost the Crusades. All nine were bad for the Jews.

 

Russia expelled Jews in 1727, again in 1738, again in 1742; the Jewish Pale of Settlement was established in 1791. From 1880 to 1920 two million Jews, usually impoverished, fled the Russian Empire and its replacements. Most of them came to the United States—which slammed the golden door against them from 1924 to 1965.

 

Spain expelled Jews in 1492. Following Arab military defeat, Spain formally readmitted Jews in 1968.

 

Following Arab military defeat, the Holy See recognized Israel in 1993. This only took forty-five years.

 

But why expect speed? For 117 years (1867–1984) the United States did not have full relations with the Holy See. For fifty-nine years (1870–1929) the Kingdom of Italy, having extinguished the papal states, ignored the smallest as much as it could. Mussolini relented and paid reparations. The State of Vatican City and the Holy See are juridically distinct; the latter “owns” the former.

 

From 1948 onward schemes to make some or all of Jerusalem into a corpus separatum have been shoved aside by military realities and refurbished insincerities.

 

 

 

 

NOTES

 

 

1 Genesis 17:11, amplified at Deuteronomy 30:6.

2 Herman Melville, White-Jacket (1850). For an excellent

   account of an underexplored topic, see The Puritan

   Origins of American Patriotism (2007) by George McKenna.

   His last chapter is entitled “America after 9/11.” See also The

   Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine

   Election (2010) by Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibovitz.

3 For a detached, balanced, thorough, and readable account, see Power,

   Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present

   (2007) by Michael B. Oren. See also Bits of Geography 11 17 18

   on website.

 


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